This Side of Paradise

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This Side of Paradise
This Side of Paradise Cover 1920 Retouched.jpg
Dust jacket cover of first edition
AuthorF. Scott Fitzgerald
Cover artistWilliam E. Hill
CountryUnited States
Publication date
March 26, 1920
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
Pages305 (first edition hardcover)
Followed byThe Beautiful and Damned (1922) 

This Side of Paradise is the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1920. The book examines the lives and morality of American youth in the aftermath of World War I. Its protagonist Amory Blaine is an attractive student at Princeton University who dabbles in literature. The novel explores the theme of love warped by greed and status seeking, and takes its title from a line of Rupert Brooke's poem Tiare Tahiti. The novel famously helped F. Scott Fitzgerald gain Zelda Sayre's hand in marriage; its publication was her condition of acceptance.


In the summer of 1919, after less than a year of courtship, Zelda Sayre broke up with the 22-year-old Fitzgerald. After a summer of heavy drinking, he returned to St. Paul, Minnesota, where his family lived, to complete the novel, hoping that if he became a successful novelist he could win Zelda back. While at Princeton (notably in University Cottage Club's library), Fitzgerald had written the unpublished novel The Romantic Egotist, and ultimately 81 pages of the typescript of this earlier work were included in This Side of Paradise.[1]

On September 4, 1919, Fitzgerald gave the manuscript to his friend Shane Leslie to deliver to Maxwell Perkins, an editor at Charles Scribner's Sons in New York City. The book was nearly rejected by the editors at Scribners, but Perkins insisted, and on September 16, it officially was accepted. Fitzgerald begged for early publication—convinced that he would become a celebrity and impress Zelda—but was told that the novel would have to wait until the spring. Nevertheless, upon the acceptance of his novel for publication he went and visited Zelda, and she agreed to marry him.[2][3][4]

Plot summary[edit]

The book is written in three parts.

Book One: The Romantic Egotist[edit]

Amory Blaine, a young Midwesterner, is convinced that he has an exceptionally promising future. He attends boarding school and later Princeton University. He leaves behind his eccentric mother Beatrice and befriends Monsignor Darcy, a close friend of his mother. While at Princeton he goes back to Minneapolis, where he re-encounters Isabelle Borgé, a young lady whom he had met as a little boy, and starts a romantic relationship with her. At Princeton, he repeatedly writes ever more flowery poems, but Amory and Isabelle become disenchanted with each other after meeting again at his prom.


Following their break-up, Amory is shipped overseas to serve in the army in World War I. (Fitzgerald had been in the army himself, but the war ended while he was stationed on Long Island.) Amory's experiences in the war are not described, other than to say later in the book that he was a bayonet instructor.

Book Two: The Education of a Personage[edit]

After the war, Amory falls in love with a New York debutante named Rosalind Connage. Amory writes copy for an advertising agency, but hates his job because he considers himself, as a creative person, too good for it. He goes on an alcoholic bender of about three weeks, during which he quits his job. Meanwhile, money he inherited from his mother is largely lost due to failed investments. Because he is now poor, his relationship with Rosalind collapses as well; she reluctantly informs him that she can no longer see him as she needs to be with a wealthy man. Upon Amory's visit to Maryland, he meets and starts a relationship with an eighteen-year-old woman named Eleanor. After spending a great deal of the summer talking about their love and the seasons, Eleanor's half-suicide attempt leads their romance to spoil. Amory returns to New York, finding out that Rosalind has officially been engaged to Dawson Ryder, a man of wealth and status. A devastated Amory is further crushed to learn that his mentor Monsignor Darcy has died. Homeless, Amory wanders from New York toward Princeton and, accepting a car ride from a wealthy man, he speaks out in favor of socialism, though he admits he is formulating his thoughts on it as he is talking. The book ends with Amory's iconic lament "I know myself, but that is all-".[5]

Major characters[edit]

Ginevra King—whom Fitzgerald romantically pursued as a young man—inspired the character of Isabelle Borgé. King was often mentioned in the Chicago press as among the city's "four most desirable" debutantes.

Most of the characters are drawn directly from Fitzgerald's own life:[6][7]

  • Amory Blaine — the protagonist of the book based upon Fitzgerald. Both are from the Midwest, attended Princeton, had a failed romance with a debutante, served in the army, then had a failed romance with a second debutante (though after the success of This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald won back Zelda). The name "Amory" is taken from one of Fitzgerald's heroes at Princeton, Hobart Amory Hare "Hobey" Baker / Hobey Baker
  • Beatrice Blaine — Blaine's mother was actually based on the mother of one of Fitzgerald's friends.
  • Isabelle Borgé — Amory Blaine's first love is based on the Chicago debutante Ginevra King, Fitzgerald's first love.[8][9]
  • Monsignor Darcy — Blaine's spiritual mentor is based on Father Sigourney Fay, to whom Fitzgerald was close. "Fitzgerald studied at the Newman School, a Catholic Prep school in New Jersey and where he fell under the influence of Father Sigourney Fay. Father Fay introduced him to the worlds of arts and letters, and another side of Catholicism, which emphasizes the "beauty and richness of the experience [Fitzgerald] would always try to capture in his writing." Fitzgerald later wrote in a review-essay that "[Father Fay] came into my life as the most romantic figure I had ever known.""
  • Rosalind Connage — Amory Blaine's second love is based on Zelda Sayre, Fitzgerald's second love. However, unlike Zelda, Rosalind was from New York. Rosalind is also partially based on the character Beatrice Normandy from H.G. Wells's novel Tono-Bungay (1909).[citation needed]
  • Cecilia Connage — Rosalind's cynical younger sister.[citation needed]
  • Thomas Parke D'Invilliers—one of Blaine's close friends (also the fictitious author of the poem at the start of The Great Gatsby) was based on the poet John Peale Bishop, Fitzgerald's friend and classmate.[citation needed]
  • Eleanor Savage — a girl Amory meets in Maryland. Eleanor's character serves as a "love interest, therapeutic friend, and conversational other". Highly educated and discussing poetry and philosophy, "Eleanor not only posits her desires in juxtaposition to the lingering Victorian expectations of women in her day but also serves as soothsayer to the demands which would be placed on females".[10]
  • Clara Page — Amory's widowed cousin, whom he loves, but she doesn't love him.


This Side of Paradise blends different styles of writing: It is, at times, a fictional narrative, at times free verse, and at times a narrative drama, interspersed with letters and poems from Amory. In fact, the novel's blend of styles was the result of Fitzgerald's cobbling The Romantic Egotist, his earlier attempt at a novel, together with assorted short stories and poems that he had composed but never published. The occasional switch from third person to second person gives the hint that the story is semi-autobiographical.[11] The novel also contains a passage written in a stream-of-consciousness style.


F. Scott Fitzgerald circa 1920 when This Side of Paradise was published.

This Side of Paradise was published on March 26, 1920, with a first printing of 3,000 copies. The initial printing sold out in three days. On March 30, four days after publication and one day after selling out the first printing, Fitzgerald wired Zelda to come to New York and get married that weekend. Barely a week after publication, Zelda and Scott married in New York on April 3, 1920.[12]

The book went through 12 printings in 1920 and 1921 for a total of 49,075 copies.[13] The novel did not provide a huge income for Fitzgerald. Copies sold for $1.75, for which he earned 10% on the first 5,000 copies and 15% beyond that. In total, in 1920 he earned $6,200 ($82,095.27 in 2015 dollars) from the book. His new fame enabled him to earn much higher rates for his short stories.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Many reviewers were enthusiastic. Burton Rascoe of the Chicago Tribune wrote "it bears the impress, it seems to me, of genius. It is the only adequate study that we have had of the contemporary American in adolescence and young manhood."[14] H.L. Mencken wrote This Side of Paradise was the "best American novel that I have seen of late."[15]

One reader who was not entirely pleased, however, was John Grier Hibben, the president of Princeton University: "I cannot bear to think that our young men are merely living four years in a country club and spending their lives wholly in a spirit of calculation and snobbishness".[16]

Legacy and analysis[edit]

The book has been the subject of diverse studies in research studying Fitzgerald's career[16] as well as essays looking at development of narcissism[17] and feminism[10] in literature.

Saori Tanaka's essay on narcissism argues that "Amory comes to know himself through Beatrice and his four lovers, which are like five sheets of glass. They are his reflectors (...) reflecting his narcissism and the inner side.[17] The first three women in the book allow Amory to dream in a narcissistic way:

  • Beatrice. She is the basis of both his nervousness and romanticism. He is attracted to her exquisite delicacy despite "no illusions about her" and has a sense of superiority.
  • Isabelle. A beautiful girl in Minneapolis is a replica of his perfect self. Amory identifies himself with her because she is his twin in "good looks and an excitable temperament".
  • Clara. She is ideal, clean, brilliant and casts light upon him as her name suggests. Her holiness and goodness will save him from his fear of temptation and evil.

The last two women he meets, after participating in the war and losing his financial foundation "make him not dream but awake in postwar act II":

  • Rosalind. Seemingly reminiscent of actress-like Isabelle, she sells her love to satisfy her narcissism infinitely. She kills not herself but his love (...) when she rejects "his lips against her wet cheek". She makes Amory lose "the illusion of eternal youth"
  • Eleanor. The last woman who leaves Amory the pain of knowing himself. She is the sole muse who projects his precise image. Eleanor echoes Amory's "black old inside self" and exposes his soul.

Tanaka states that: "With Beatrice and Isabelle, Amory activates the grandiose self, with Clara and Rosalind, he restricts narcissism, and with Eleanor, he gains a realistic conception of the self."[17]

In popular culture[edit]

In the television series 30 Rock,[when?] the character Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) says that he was awarded the "Amory Blaine Handsomeness Scholarship" by Princeton University.

The 24th episode of the first season of Star Trek is titled "This Side of Paradise" (1967). Both were inspired by Rupert Brooke's poem "Tiare Tahiti".

The book is read by Charlie, the main character, in Stephen Chbosky's 1999 novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.[18]

Alternative band Glass Animals subtly referenced the novel on their 2016 album How to Be a Human Being, with a track titled "The Other Side Of Paradise." The lyrics detail a one-sided, chaotic relationship.

The season 3 finale of Sliders (TV series) is entitled "This Slide of Paradise."

The central plot of John Grisham's 2017 novel Camino Island centers around F. Scott Fitzgerald's manuscripts, including This Side of Paradise, which, in the novel, were stolen from the Firestone Library at Princeton University.

In the 2019 Canadian film by director Richard Bell, Brotherhood, Arthur Lambden, a World War I veteran and hero, played by Brendan Fletcher, slips a photo of happier days of his young son and himself, between the pages of The Side of Paradise, which he takes with him on the ill-fated 1926 camping trip that ends in a tragic drowning accident.[19]


  1. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 98–99
  2. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 109
  3. ^ Ek, Karin (24 July 2015). "BBC Sincerely F Scott Fitzgerald". Retrieved 17 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ Fitzgerald, F. Scott (1920). This Side of Paradise. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  5. ^ This Side of Paradise, p. 285
  6. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 123–124
  7. ^ Mizener, Arthur (1972), Scott Fitzgerald and His World, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  8. ^ Noden, Merrell (November 5, 2003). "Fitzgerald's first love". Princeton Alumni Weekly.
  9. ^ Stepanov, Renata (September 15, 2003). "Family of Fitzgerald's lover donates correspondence". The Daily Princetonian. Archived from the original on October 4, 2003.
  10. ^ a b Riccardo, Andrew (1 January 2012). "Anticipative Feminism in F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise and Flappers and Philosophers". The Oswald Review. 14 (1): 26–57.
  11. ^ West, James L.W. III, "The question of vocation in This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. In Prigozy 2002, pp. 48–56
  12. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 127–28
  13. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 133
  14. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 116–17
  15. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 117
  16. ^ a b Bruccoli 2002, p. 125
  17. ^ a b c Tanaka, Saori (24 December 2014). "Mirror Images Reflecting Self : Narcissism in F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise". Osaka Literary Review. 43: 123–140. doi:10.18910/25224. hdl:11094/25224.
  18. ^ Chbosky, Stephen (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books. p. 14. ISBN 0-671-02734-4.
  19. ^ Richard Bell (director), Mehernaz Lentin, Anand Ramayya (producers) (July 20, 2019). Brotherhood. Canada: Industry Pictures, Karma Film. 96 minutes in.


External links[edit]